Stop The Presses: Abortion Protesters Are Disingenuous?

Amanda Marcotte got her hands on — literally — the playbook of the anti-abortion movement. They use the book to teach activists how to convince college kids to oppose abortion. Marcotte seems surprised, but she shouldn't be.

The handbook, some of which Marcotte scanned in for our edification, teaches anti-abortion activists how to counter the arguments of the pro-choice movement with a variety of obfuscations, lies and pretenses about their empathy for women seeking abortions. One instance is chronicled by Marcotte:

In the section titled "Why Don't You Pass Out Condoms and Promote Birth Control?," the authors tacitly admit that sensible people might be put off by the anti-choice movement's willingness to increase the abortion rate by standing as firmly against contraception, especially the birth control pill, as they do legal abortion. So instead of allowing members to admit their hostility to all forms of contraception, they instruct them to conceal their beliefs until a target has been softened up to hear about their true message—sexual abstinence for all not trying to procreate—through a series of dodgy, misleading arguments, including misinformation about how the birth control pill works.

In another, activists are given a variety of statistics and misleading information about risky pregnancies to counter the idea that abortion is ever medically necessary.

Conveniently, the one dangerous condition they'll admit exists (and consider a justifiable reason for an abortion) happens to be the one that is most likely to threaten her future fertility—the ectopic pregnancy—so they can rest easy knowing that even if a woman's life is saved through abortion, she's paid a steep price. Other dangerous conditions caused by pregnancy—eclampsia and placenta previa being the two biggies—are dismissed as myths used to get away with abortions. Other life-threatening illnesses like cancer are ignored, and it's assumed that a woman's health is certainly an acceptable sacrifice for a pregnancy

The handbook makes no bones about the fact that anti-abortion activists are also generally opposed to birth control of all kinds, sex before marriage, and every single abortion, including ones involving non-viable fetuses, deathly ill women, or victims of rape and incest — despite their occasional attempts at tolerance on those points when attempting to pass legislation tolerable to the majority of Americans.

Marcotte is herself also really put off by the thought that activists are taught to fake empathy.

But I think the part that was honestly most telling was the strong, repeated instructions to practice showing concern for women. Readers are told that the big mistake anti-choicers make is railroading over women as if they don't matter, and you really lose credibility. You're given sound bites to show concern (their words), because, and this is important—-if you show contempt for women who die from illegal abortions, you lose credibility. They don't come right out and say to fake concern, but that's the gist of it.

Actually, they kind of do exactly that — they instruct people on how to appear concerned.

This manual was written by and for a movement that is attempting to exert control over women's bodies and women's choices. They've spent years and millions of dollars to claim that a two-celled zygote is legally equivalent to a human; to place restrictions on women's and doctor's medical decisions; to harass and intimidate doctors and health care providers out of performing abortions; to harass and intimidate women out of getting abortions; to throw up legal and logistical challenges to everything from Plan B to RU-486; to keep young men and women from getting an thorough education about their bodies and reproduction, to start with. And then they use people's lack of information and knowledge about the means of reproduction, contraception, pregnancy, birth control and abortion to their advantage in their war to change the law. It's quite a holistic approach for a movement that doesn't really value educating anyone.

The "Pro-Life" Movement's Hot Rhetoric and All-Out Lies [RH Reality Check]
Anti-Choice Handbook [RH Reality Check]
Just Be Normal Again [Pandagon]